Federal court denies habeas petition in Davis death penalty case

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia [official website] on Tuesday denied [order part 1, PDF; part 2, PDF] the habeas corpus petition of Troy Anthony Davis [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], convicted and sentenced to death for murdering an off-duty Savannah, Georgia, police officer. After Davis exhausted his appeals under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [text], the US Supreme Court [official website] took the rare step of granting [order, PDF; JURIST report] his original writ of habeas corpus [cert. petition, PDF] and instructed the district court to examine new findings of fact in the case. The district court indicated that its hearing uncovered nothing to satisfy the high level of scrutiny to which habeas petitions are subjected, concluding that "while executing an innocent person would violate the United States Constitution, Mr. Davis has failed to prove his innocence." Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], which has campaigned on Davis' behalf, criticized [press release] the ruling, pointing out that four witnesses to the shooting testified that they lied when they implicated Davis in his original trial, and several others identified another man present at the scene as the killer. While an appeal is expected, the district court has said it is unsure what court would have jurisdiction under 28 USC § 2241 [text]. The uncertainty underscores the unusual nature of the sequence of events that brought Davis' petition to the Southern District of Georgia, a process that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia described in his 2009 dissent [text, PDF] as "a confusing exercise that can serve no purpose except to delay the State's execution of its lawful criminal judgment." It is possible that an appeal would go directly to the Supreme Court.

In October 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit granted Davis a provisional stay of execution [JURIST report], directing the parties to address through briefs whether Davis can meet the stringent requirements of federal law that would permit him to file a second habeas corpus petition for federal review of his case. The Supreme Court had rejected [JURIST report] Davis' petition for certiorari appealing his death sentence earlier that month, lifting their own stay on his execution. The court had previously stayed [JURIST report] Davis' execution and had also previously denied a petition for certiorari in the case.

 

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